Japan caught up in suicide epidemic

TOKYO, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Japan's national police agency said on Thursday that 33,093 Japanese people committed suicide in 2007 up 3% from 2006, with depression being the main cause followed by health and debt worries.

The figure is the second worst for recorded suicides since 2003, when there were 34,427 cases and the 10th year in a row that numbers have exceeded 30,000 in a nation with a population of around 128 million. The rise also undermines government campaigns to reduce the country's suicide rate.

The number of people taking their own lives in Japan skyrocketed after the economic crisis in the late 1980s left many jobless and in debt.

The authorities say the rising suicide figures are also partly due to the popularity of suicide websites, which give detailed information on suicide methods.

The governmental effort to curb the crisis has proved ineffective so far. Over the past ten years the highest rate has been recorded in Japan's northern prefecture of Akita, where a suicide prevention program was launched in 2000.

In Europe the country with the highest rate, among both men and women aged 25-64 years, is Lithuania, followed by Belarus, Russia and Latvia. The region with the lowest suicide rate is Latin America.

In Russia, the number of suicides has plunged 30% from 2001 to 2006, when a total of 42,855 Russians committed suicide. Currently, the overall rate is 30 deaths per 100,000, with over 22% of suicides committed by people aged 40-49. Almost six times as many Russian males commit suicide than females.

According to the UN, Japan has 24 suicides per 100,000 people.

Suicide is the world's eighth leading cause of death with over 1 million people annually taking their lives worldwide. Globally, suicide takes more lives than murder and war put together, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report.

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